(Photo via Facebook)
“Software is everything.”
I heard this repeated, like a mantra, by almost every person I met at the Application Developers Alliance. It was repeated with a kind of awe because, well, it is a pretty awesome fact — in the traditional sense of that word.
Think about it. General Electric, once an appliance company, is now (arguably) a software company. Ford, first and foremost a car company, is now also a software company — making “computers with four wheels.” The list goes on and on.
And for the Application Developers Alliance this is an especially awesome fact, because they represent the issues and concerns of an ever-growing workforce of software devs. The Alliance is essentially a trade association for app developers. Their mission is to “advocate on behalf of developers, support the industry’s continued growth, and promote innovation” — CEO Jake Ward tells me they want to be “the AARP of developers.”
“This sounds almost hyperbolic,” Ward said, “but developers are the most important workforce.” Truth be told, though, in a world where adding to the tech workforce is such a hot topic that President Obama himself mentioned the importance of teaching kids to code in his final State of the Union address, it doesn’t sound that hyperbolic at all. It sounds like a golden opportunity for the Alliance.
The Application Developers Alliance, founded in 2012, employs about 20 staff spread between offices in California, London, Brussels and D.C. The staff is young, and they come from a diverse range of backgrounds befitting the diverse work they do at the alliance — membership outreach, events, research, advocacy.
The D.C. office definitely has a certain startup vibe. It’s on a quiet block of 7th Street NW across from the Convention Center, and boasts an open floor plan and lots of exposed brick. As I sat down to talk with staff, a pet dog wandered the conference room giving me a toothy grin.
Here’s what I learned about what they do:
Interestingly, the Alliance represents both individual developers and the large companies they (may) work for. The Alliance boasts a developer network of around 65,000 — individuals can join for free for access to educational resources and events. They also represent around 200 companies ranging from Blackberry to Snapchat — these companies pay membership dues for access to research, events and policy representation.
Geoff Lane, director of U.S. policy and government relations, assured me there’s no conflict of interest here. “What’s good for the small developer is good for the company, and vice versa,” he said, citing examples like the Google Play store where cooperation between corporations and individual devs is essential.
The Alliance advocates for devs and software companies on a lot of big issues including government surveillance, patent reform and Safe Harbor. The cycle works essentially like this — the policy people at the Alliance keep an eye on any big issues being debated in government, and educate their members on the latest. If necessary, they mobilize members to weigh in on the issue at hand.
The Alliance is working towards developing skill certifications in partnership with the big companies they represent. This, Ward told me, would go a long way in helping software companies find the talent they need.
Another big part of what the Alliance does is provide a network for their members — they host events around the world.
And of course there’s more. One thing I heard consistently from staff is how meaningful it feels to be providing value to such a wide diversity of companies and individuals. By the flip side of that coin, however, it can be challenging to realize that you can’t do it all.
Software is everything, after all.